How Working at a Community College Is Like Working Retail

The content of this article by Julie Garza Withers at Ethnography.com will come as news to absolutely none of the thousands of contract faculty at Ontario Colleges.  They know what it’s like to have to reapply for their own jobs every fourteen weeks, what it’s like to be treated as disposable or fungible by their employer, and what it’s like to know that their continued employment depends upon keeping their heads down, for fear of negative attention.

The article is significant for many things, but Withers reminds us of the fundamental injustice of the two-tiered employment structure so common in academia: Having two people side-by-side, boasting the same qualifications and experience, and offering equal value to the school, yet working under radically different conditions, for radically different rewards.  She writes:

At Barnes and Noble a low-ranked bookseller with limited responsibilities got paid accordingly; at the community college however, all of us faculty share the same level of responsibilities, but 70% of us are paid a pittance in comparison to our tenured peers.

While this article has a American bent, it applies all-too-well to Ontario Colleges.  The real question that people need to ask is this:  Do we want a Ontario College students to be taught by people to have the same working conditions and job security as retail employees?  Does that model promote the attention and commitment that Ontario’s students deserve?  Is that model appropriate to the function that Colleges serve for Ontario’s society and economy?

 

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